Couples who contributed to growing a retirement fund do not necessarily damage their nest egg by divorcing. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conducted a survey in 2016. As reported by CNBC, the survey showed that attorneys stated pension funds and retirement plans accounted for 62% of their divorce court battles. For many couples, a retirement plan may reflect the largest financial asset they will need to divide.

A soon-to-be ex-spouse may request money from a 401(k) or pension plan, even when he or she did not work. While it may seem unfair to some individuals, the Sunshine State’s divorce laws require the courts to distribute marital property fairly and equitably between the two spouses. If they started a retirement plan during their marriage, a judge views both spouses as having a legal right to its equity value.

Who determines how much a spouse can withdraw?

A divorce court judge determines the fairness of dividing a fund’s value. There are, however, limitations to how much money a spouse could withdraw from an account.

Generally, a spouse must request a qualified domestic relations order from the fund’s administrator. If an employer sponsors the plan, a spouse might need to request a QDRO from his or her company’s human resource department. Submitting a QDRO to the divorce court ensures that a judge views the retirement plan as part of the couple’s marital property.

Part of the judge’s determination of how much each spouse should receive depends on the account’s value and the value of other marital assets. If a spouse expects alimony or child support, the funds from a pension or 401(k) may increase or reduce the amount of the payments.

Why is a nonworking spouse entitled to a retirement fund?

The Sunshine State courts view a spouse who maintained a couple’s home and raised their children as contributing to the household. The services a nonworking spouse provided aided in growing a retirement plan, which both spouses relied on receiving.